Ahh, pirates. The one demographic of villains that seemingly never gets old, no matter how many films, books, and games are created in their honor. Age of Pirates 2, by Playlogic, seeks to further popularize the pirate genre, and create an incredibly detailed swashbuckling RPG simulator for the PC.
One of the best parts of Age of Pirates 2 is that it doesn’t force you to be a pirate. Does it do anything else right? Read on to find out.
Age of Pirates 2 is a hardcore high seas simulator, plain and simple. As such, the visuals and gameplay mechanics are put on the wayside in favor of a more detailed experience (it even comes with a cool poster-map of the world). If you can engage in an action in real life: bet your booty that Age of Pirates 2 has the option to follow through on it. Throughout your adventures, you can become a wanted man, explore undead caves, donate and affiliate yourself with churches, fraternize with brothel employees, start tavern brawls, and deputize citizens after taking over towns.
When you start the game off, you can choose one of three characters, each with a different storyline, and a class. You can embark as a merchant, corsair, or adventurer, each with different statistics and abilities. Like the medieval simulator Mount & Blade, it’s entirely possible to become a successful merchant character without any sailing or combat experience at all. The process of creating a character may not be as engaging as other titles, but the meat of the game’s customization comes after you enter the world for the first time.
When you first enter the game world, prepare to be unimpressed: visually, Age of Pirates 2 is pretty low budget. The models look very outdated, and you’ll find a lot of similarly looking townfolk while traveling. You’ll also find little to no voice acting, so expect to do a lot of reading. Musically, Age of Pirates 2 is soothing, and immediately, I was reminded of the score from Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls titles. You won’t hear anything ground breaking, but there isn’t much to complain about.
Where Age of Pirates 2 ultimately fails is the control scheme. You engage in dialogue selection choices, much like the RPGs Mass Effect or Knights of the Old Republic, but you have to select the different dialogue options with the keyboard. In Mass Effect, you would simply spin your mouse to the different choices and select them with a simple mouse stroke, making it very easy to select exactly what you want to say; but in Pirates 2, you’ll often find yourself making the wrong decisions while fumbling around with the keyboard.
Another issue with the controls is the jarring method of on-foot exploration. Instead of a visual “cursor system”, like many RPGs use to select NPCs or objects to interact with, you simply click the left mouse button to interact with the closest object next to you. I found that while exploring towns there were a bunch of instances when I couldn’t talk to the person next to me without trying multiple times. Combat is also a similar ordeal: I had to remap “block” from a random keyboard key to “right click” to stand more of a chance against my foes.
Unfortunately, the quick menu, which is an otherwise amazing tool that allows you to instantly “quick travel” to different locations in town, is also bogged down by the controls. You have to press the enter key to bring it up, select an area, then press enter again to teleport there. You’ll find a lot of your time is spent shifting your hands over, and pressing the enter key when a simple mouse button click would have been much easier. I spent about 15 minutes in the options menu trying to find out how to remap the quick select button, only to find out I couldn’t do it. Controlling your ship is also quite confusing when you set sail for your first time: make sure you consult your manual for help!
If you can get into the game and past it’s flaws, Age of Pirates 2 has a lot to offer in terms of longevity. The three different storylines offered in the game are different enough to warrant a few playthroughs, and by the very nature of the title, you can do anything you want when you play it again. You can also choose to ally yourself with the French, Dutch, English, and Spanish, or become a plain old pirate. Once, I played as a simple merchant with a modest ship to ward off enemy pirates, and another playthrough, I was a ruthless warlord with a giant, unrivaled vessel: who you become is really up to you.
It’s a shame that Pirates 2 is marred by so many design issues, because there really is a whole lot of gameplay packed in. It has the epic scale and “do all” nature of MMO titles, and the sheer amount of freedom allowed reminds me of Ultima Online. If you don’t mind outdated visuals and clunky controls, you might want to give Pirates 2 a try: otherwise, stick to simplistic, polished simulators like The Sims.
The visuals are very outdated, and a lot of the character models are uninspired. However, the locales are diverse, and all have their own characteristic feel to them.
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You'll spend around 20 minutes retooling the controls to get them to your liking. The enter key is used in the quick navigation menu, which is very jarring, and cannot be changed.
The soundtrack isn't very memorable, but a few tunes do stick out, and are reminiscent of other RPG titles.
Age of Pirates 2 really shines in the value department. For $30, you get a whole host of options and choices.
Age of Pirates 2 unfortunately suffers from a lot of design issues that end up frustrating the player into trying to redesign the control scheme. If you can get past it's shortcomings, simulation fans will become engrossed in the world for well over 100+ hours.